In December 2018, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Syria. The announcement came as both a surprise and concern over the stability in that region, particularly concerning Israel’s northern border.
The announcement came less than a week after a phone conversation between President Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who demanded the U.S. rescind its support of Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in northern Syria. Ironically, both the U.S. and EU have labeled the Kurdish army (PKK) as a terrorist group. President Erdogan favorably responded to the news of the pullout by inviting President Trump to visit Turkey in 2019.
Apart from the Kurdish army, many accused the president of betraying Israel given that the U.S. presence in Syria has kept both Russian and Iranian forces at bay. Turkey is now meeting with Russian officials to devise a military strategy for Syria, one that will likely involve Iran and President Bashar al-Assad seeking to destroy all remaining military groups fighting against Syrian forces, including ISIS and the Kurdish army.
If the United States does pull out of Syria, one thing is becoming clear: Israel’s lessor enemy, ISIS, will be replaced with a much larger one. Any remaining ISIS forces would likely retreat to Iraq where they would continue battling the U.S. and Iraqi military forces or would assimilate into the Syrian army to fight against their even greater enemy—Israel.
So, here is the question. Why would President Trump make this decision when he should be able to foresee its detrimental consequences? I have heard some tell me they believe the President has a secret strategy, a covert plan to allow Israel to strike at Iranian forces in Syria, and by withdrawing U.S. troops, it will give Israel the green light to openly attack without risking American lives.
This scenario seems unlikely given that Israel maintains a defensive military policy, never preempting any attack unless war is, with all certainty, inevitable. The Jewish people value life, and every man or woman who dies erases their progeny—an entire generation, and every generation that would follow. Most Israelis feel that military conflict with Syria, at least for now, can be avoided.
I do not believe President Trump has a workable plan for Syria, nor do I believe he could ever calculate, with certainty, the outcome of his decision. Every human decision is made with calculated risk. While I am sure the president weighed these risks, he is not able to predict the future.
I do, however, know the one who not only knows the future but with meticulous calculation is sovereignly controlling the affairs of humankind to bring His plans into present history. He is the one who has and will always have a perfect plan and destiny for Israel. He knows the exact outcome of every human decision because he orders it to fulfill His purpose.[i] He is the God of Israel, Yahweh, and I believe He holds the heart of our president in His hand. Like a river of water, He turns it wherever He wishes to fulfill His purpose for the only nation born of His covenant—Israel.[ii]
You see, if Mr. Trump knew the Lord’s precise plans for Israel, then effectively he becomes their god. It doesn’t work like that. God is sovereign over the nation of Israel and her land. She is the Lord’s heritage and the apple of His eye.[iii] The primary question we need to be asking the Lord is this: Help us to understand Your will and purpose for Israel at this crucial point of time in their history? Like the disciples asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
President Trump’s decision ironically, on the Hebrew calendar, came one day after the Tenth of Tevet, a minor fast day in Judaism. The day is observed in mourning for the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, which ultimately led to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah. While there is no direct correlation in Jewish tradition, prophetically, the fast comes about one week after Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The timing of these two observances should prophetically begin to lay out God’s pattern for how He deals with the rebellious nature of the Jewish people—the siege by the nations against God’s people and His Holy city of Jerusalem is followed by their attempt to desecrate His Temple. “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3).
These attempts to destroy God’s people come at the hand of His miraculous deliverance and the rededication and consecration of His Holy Temple. Presently, the church is the spiritual Temple of God.[iv] Soon, we will not only see, but will labor with Christ in the task of physically restoring Israel, rebuilding His Temple in Jerusalem, and establishing His Kingdom over all the earth.
From scripture, we know that at least two major sieges will come against Israel before the return of Yeshua. The first is known as the War of Gog and Magog, and the second is called the Battle of Armageddon, or more accurately, the Battle at Mount Megiddo (in Hebrew Har Megiddo). It is also evident from scripture that Israel will stand alone in these wars as not one other nation is mentioned coming to her assistance. It is written:
“They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, And consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ For they have consulted together with one consent; They form a confederacy against You: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. Selah” (Psalm 83:3-8, NKJV).[v]
“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you. ‘Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you’” (Ezekiel 38:1-9).
Psalm 83 is a reference to the Arab nations that presently surround Israel, and Ezekiel 38 is a reference to other non-Arab nations that likely include modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iran, Russia, Libya, Sudan, and Ethiopia (See Figure 1). You can begin to see the pattern here of these nations aligning with scripture in response to President Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria. Notice it is the Lord Himself who is making this alliance by putting hooks into their jaws.
There is scholarly debate around which of these nations are specifically referenced in scripture. Regardless, what is important to recognize is that Israel will continue to face intensifying wars and rumors of wars, and Israel will ultimately stand alone in her conflicts.[vi] We will explore why in a moment.
This future siege against Jerusalem in the War of God and Magog, I believe, will lay the foundation for the rise of the Anti-Christ and the eventual desecration of the Third Temple. It is written, “Then he [the Anti-Christ] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate” (Daniel 9:27).
When the Anti-Christ is revealed for who he is, the false Messiah of Israel, he will turn against the Jewish people. But also, the nations will come against him and Israel, to destroy his kingdom and to finally gain control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.[vii] It will be at this time when all the nations have surrounded Jerusalem that Yeshua will return to the Mount of Olives.
The Lord has given many promises concerning Israel that have yet to be fulfilled. As we near the end of the age, the evidence of God’s prophetic word being fulfilled for Israel will become clearer. Some of these prophecies have been fulfilled in part, such as the reestablishment of Israel and, to a large degree, and the regathering of the Jewish people back to their land in 1948. Other prophecies remain mysteriously veiled.[viii]
Throughout time, the Lord has used the Gentile nations to bring His judgments against Israel, purposefully to humble His people so that He might deliver them from the hand of their enemies. Every time the Lord has demonstrated His sovereign power over Israel, the nations are reminded that He is the God of Israel. Israel was commanded not to turn to other nations for military help, for she alone was to become the head of nations, not the tail.[ix] For it is written, “You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods” (Exodus 23:32).
In turn, the Lord would use Israel as His vessel to execute His righteous judgments against the nations that tried to destroy her. For it is written, “Behold, I will make you [Israel] into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, And make the hills like chaff” (Isaiah 41:15). This is God’s paradox that He judges Israel by bringing the Gentile nations against her, and then, in turn, raises Israel in power to bring His judgments against those very same nations. “For God has committed them all [Jew and Gentile] to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” Romans 11:32).
If we understand that prophesies concerning Israel will be fulfilled incrementally, then it should become evident that Israel will not only become further isolated from the nations around her, but through these conflicts, the Lord will also raise Israel in military strength to execute His righteous judgments against the nations. Interestingly, Israel’s army today ranks 16th in the world by website Global Firepower.[x] And, the U.S. News & World Report annual international survey found Israel to be the eighth most powerful nation in the world for the third year in a row. I believe that Israel will continue to grow in economic, political, and military power until all the armies of the earth eventually come against Jerusalem.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res) Benny Gantz announced that he had registered a new political party, which he will head, in advance of the April Knesset election. The name of the party is Hosen L’Yisrael (“Israel Resilience”). I believe this name makes a prophetic statement about Israel’s resolve to stand alone against every nation ultimately. The Jewish people realize that not one nation, not even this one, can permanently be trusted. I believe the Lord is even causing this to happen.
So, why would God set the course for Israel to stand alone against every nation? Ultimately, it is because He desires to prove His love and faithfulness to His people, and He will show them that He is their only Savior. In their first commandment, God required that Israel was to have no other gods before Him, for no other gods could ever deliver Israel from her enemies.[xi]
Following the biblical analogy that God uses the Gentile nations to humble the Jewish people, we see in scripture that He has a plan to gather us back to Jerusalem where He will blow His fury and anger on Israel by the nations that surround her so that they would melt and be humbled in His presence.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst” (Ezekiel 22:19-21).
In her final moment of impending destruction when the Gentiles have surrounded Jerusalem, the power of the holy people will be completely shattered, and Israel will be fully humbled. Then the Lord Himself will deliver Israel from the hand of her enemies.[xii] He will be accompanied by a heavenly army, and He will destroy the armies of the earth that have come against the Jewish people. As it is written, “Then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).
We are living in a season where God is beginning to sift the nations. He is separating the goats from the sheep. Still, there is much biblical history that is yet to unfold. Will America remain a sheep nation, one that has stood with, protected, fed, clothed, and comforted the Jewish people? I believe we will, at least for the near future.
The Lord has revealed that intense military conflict is coming to Israel, and through this conflict, I believe the United States will stand with them. Could this conflict could be the war of Gog and Magog? Only history will tell, and unfortunately for the church, biblical prophecy is often not fully recognized until it is fulfilled right before our eyes.
Therefore, let us continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the protection of Israel, and salvation of the Jewish people. May it be so, even in our generation, that a great harvest would come to Israel and the nations.
[i] Revelation 17:17.
[ii] Proverbs 21:1. 2 Kings 19:28. Isaiah 37:29.
[iii] Joel 3:2. Zechariah 2:8.
[iv] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
[v] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[vi] Matthew 24:6-8. Romans 8:22.
[vii] Daniel 11:44-45.
[viii] Daniel 8:26.
[ix] Deuteronomy 28:13.
[x] Jerenberg, Batya. Israel army scores high in global power ranking survey. World Israel News.
[xi] Exodus 12:2-3.
[xii] Daniel 12:7.